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Buy local food at your Farmers’ Park It

Volunteers deliver orders to customers in cars at the Farmers Park-It on Academy Street behind the Hotwl Saranac in Saranac Lake. (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

I love our local Farmers’ Market. In the summer, I go there for much more than food. I go to chat, meet friends, hear music. I get to know my area farmers. Hungry? Lunch is available.

In winter, the market moves indoors, where there is no music. There are fewer vendors; I don’t run into as many shoppers. Previously, this arrangement went from October through the end of December, but this year the winter market continues until May at the Hotel Saranac.

But now we have a new reality. Because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, we’re asked to shelter in place and practice social distancing. Sadly, this has disrupted the farmers’ market community. I can no longer chat with the farmers or pick out my own veggies and get a little of this and just a bit of that. I have to buy a designated quantity; for example, carrots only come in 5- and 10-pound bags.

The market has been a sensory experience. You can see, touch, smell and sometimes taste the merchandise. Now I must order from a list and can no longer taste cheeses and other delicious treats offered as samples.

But I can continue to support our local farmers. I can continue to buy locally raised, healthy food. After ordering online, I drive up Academy Street, and they place my order right in my car — in fact, shoppers are asked to remain in their vehicles.

Farmers’ Market Sausage Skillet (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

The process is new. Ordering online is not only impersonal but a little confusing. The first week, I was unaware of the new system so when I went to order, it was too late. I even emailed my favorite vendor, but he wasn’t able to put together my order in time.

The second week, it took a few days for the order form to appear on the website. I eagerly looked on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday … it was finally there on Tuesday night. And the orders had to be placed by Thursday.

The process is different for each vendor. Some vendors, like Asgaard Farm & Dairy (cheese and meat), Mace Chasm Farm (meat), and Green Jade (bread) use the community order form. You fill out your basic information, then click “NEXT.” That will take you to the form, which is arranged by vendor.

For others, like Juniper Hill (vegetables), Small Town Cultures (fermented foods like pickles and kraut) and Hex & Hop (beer and honey), there is a link to their website. Customers order and pay directly from the site.

I’m accustomed to paying at the market in cash, but now I have to pay each farm online with my credit card. For the orders on the general form, I had to wait — in one case more than 24 hours — for an invoice to arrive in my email so that I could pay.

Cabbage, sausage and apple skillet (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

Hopefully with time, these kinks will be worked out of the system. Then the pandemic will end and we will be able to resume life as usual.

Until then, please continue to support your local farmers. With many hotels and restaurants that buy local food on hiatus, the farmers need you now more than ever. In times of uncertainty and insecurity, we need our farmers more than ever.

For now, our farmers are doing their best to provide a safe and effective market in the current surreal reality. They’re adapting, educating themselves and their customers, being mindful, and continuing to produce food and prepare for the fresh crops that spring and summer will bring.

For more information, shoppers can go to the market website or Facebook page: “Saranac Lake & Lake Placid Farmers’ Markets,” https://www.facebook.com/ausablevalleygrangefarmersmarkets. The order form can be found at this link: https://tinyurl.com/FarmersParkIt.

Here are a couple of recipes I made with ingredients purchased from local farmers.

Farmers’ Market Sausage Skillet

This is an easy and adaptable dish. Simply brown sausage and add veggies. Moisten with broth, apple cider, wine or just plain water. You can serve it with potatoes, over pasta or over a grain. The sausage is from Mace Chasm or Asgaard, veggies from Juniper Hill. Vary the proportions of meat and veggies (as well as the veggies you use) according to your taste. We don’t use much meat, so a quarter-pound sausage is plenty for the two of us.

Ingredients:

1/4 to 1 pound sausage of your choice

1/2 to 1 onion

2 to 4 ounces mushrooms

Veggies: beet, cabbage, carrot, Swiss chard (Note: Beets and cabbage take the longest to cook. Swiss chard cooks in just 5 minutes or so, so add toward the end.)

1 or 2 apples — peeled, cored, diced

1 clove garlic, or more

Seasonings: a little salt (1/2 teaspoon) or a little tamari (about a tablespoon), a dash or two of black pepper and turmeric

Liquid — 1/2 to 1 cup broth, water, apple cider or wine

1/4 cup shredded sharp cheese, like cheddar

Directions:

Use a large skillet with tight-fitting lid. Remove sausage casing. Crumble sausage in skillet and cook on low to release fat and brown.

Peel the onion; dice, and stir in. Cover skillet and continue cooking on low. Clean and slice mushrooms; stir in. Wash and chop the veggies; stir in. Peel and mince garlic; stir in. Peel, core, dice apple; stir in. Season with a tablespoon of tamari or a half-teaspoon salt; stir in pepper and turmeric, if you want.

Add about a half-cup broth — you can also use apple cider, water or wine — to prevent things from sticking. Cook on low under cover until vegetables are desired tenderness.

Serve over pasta or rice, or with a side of potatoes.

Serves 2 to 3.

Spinach Salad with Feta and Radishes

Spinach, purple radish and watermelon radish and sweet onion from Juniper Hill, feta and eggs from Asgard. Kefir from Nori’s.

Ingredients:

A few handfuls spinach (enough to almost fill your salad bowl) — you can also use lettuce

1 purple Daikon radish

1/4 to 1/2 sweet onion

1 watermelon radish

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup (about) plain kefir

1/4 cup (about) crumbled feta

Optional: olives and / or sweet red peppers

Directions:

Wash spinach and tear into bite-size pieces. Drain; place in salad bowl; sprinkle with salt and toss to combine.

Peel onion; chop or slice thin; add and stir in.

Wash radishes; remove roots; slice and stir in.

Stir in kefir. Stir in feta and optional ingredients, or use for a garnish.

Serves 2 to 3.

Option: to make this into a main dish salad, add 2 or 3 chopped hard-cooked eggs.

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Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook as Words are My World.

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